WVCW, Virginia Commonwealth University’s award-winning student-run radio station, is now broadcasting on FM radio for the first time since the station’s creation in 1968.
After decades of efforts to procure a frequency in the densely populated Richmond metropolitan area, the station will no longer be confined to online broadcasting capabilities, and can be listened to at 102.9 FM.
WVCW, which is an independent broadcasting association based out of the Student Media Center, hosts a variety of specials alongside broadcasting music and radio commercials. Access to their broadcast is available for free online at wcvw.org.
WVCW general manager Heather Hudgins had made efforts in her position this year to make it onto radio, following in the footsteps of her predecessors who have done the same.
“We’ve been trying especially hard these past couple of years,” Hudgins said. “We were looking for the right opportunity to present itself, and we got it with the WTJU partnership.”
WTJU is a noncommercial and educational station that has been licensed by the FCC to the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia. WVCW has signed a one-year contract with WTJU, which will allow them to broadcast on their frequency.
WHAN, a station located in Ashburn, Virginia, approached WTJU offering to sell their station. WTJU purchased the station, and extended an offer to the student-operated WVCW so that local programming could be broadcast.
The one-year contract was signed as a preliminary measure. The school was wary of signing a 5-10-year contract before finding out how successful the transition was.
A decade ago in 2005, the SGA voted on a resolution which would grant WVCW the funding to procure their own FM radio station.
Jessica Lee, who was the Student Senate chairwoman during that period, sponsored the bill and proposed some of the potential benefits.
“As of right now you need to be (logged) in to the computer system in order to hear our radio station,” Lee said. “And we want to make it more of a typical radio station that is actually on-air that you can get from you know, your car, your stereo (or) wherever. This would just broaden the horizons for our mass (communications) majors who are working on the radio station.”
To listen to WVCW, you’ll have to tune in between 6 p.m. and 1 a.m. Monday through Thursday. On Fridays, they’re able to use the 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. time slot.
“That’s drive-time, that’s prime-time, especially because we have so much interesting specialty program that fits really well on night-time hours, like our electronica show, our EDM show and our R&B show,” Hudgins said. “We’re pretty happy about the time.”
Some of the specialty shows currently hosted at WVCW include The BeaconHill Project, which focuses on independent hip-hop artists, Drake’s Hairline, a comedy/R&B special, and The Sweet Sounds of Cinema, which features notable music from movies.
Back in 1968, when the station was still called WJRB, which stood for James River Broadcasting, the show was played over AM signals. While AM can function effectively for talk radio, the bandwidth limitations related to broadcasting on AM has made it undesirable for music-based radio. The disruption of AM radio signals is only amplified in a city setting because of large metal structures and sources of electrical noise.
In 1991, they made the switch to Cable FM, which they admit on their website was a persistent challenge to their listener-base and technical abilities. In 2001 the station made the transition to exclusively online radio, where it has stayed until now.
“WVCW offers very unique programming, we have a wide variety of shows, talk shows, music shows, book review shows (and) science shows,” Hudgins said. “There’s something for everyone on here. All this is doing is allowing us to have a wider audience and to reach more people with our programming.”
This is especially ironic as I had originally tried to join WVCW back in 1992 or so and was rejecred by student management. So I built WRIR instead. Then I had planned to move WRIR from 97.3 to 102.9 but I could not pursuade the WRIR board of directors.